In the Eye of the Storm—What to do when you don’t have a basement

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Having lived in the Midwest for most of my life, dealing with tornado warnings and sirens is hardly a new thing. I can remember walking in a line of 4th graders to the gym locker room to wait out storms, kneeling on the ground with my arms covering my head in hallways, and milling around with 3000 other corporate employees last spring waiting out a tornado warning in downtown KC.  But all of these prior experiences with intense elements of nature have occurred while I lived in a place with access to a basement, or a relatively low place to go.

I now live in an apartment complex on the top floor. There are no basements and no laundry rooms to be used as shelters. I don’t know the people who live below me, and quite frankly, I didn’t know what to do (beyond climbing into my bathtub). I briefly discussed this issue with my parents when I moved into my apartment, but have not really thought about it since moving in—that is until I heard the sirens going off last spring.

So what did I do? Well first I called my mother and said I didn’t know what to do. Not very productive. So then I called a girlfriend of mine who lives in the same complex and asked her what to do. She’s lived in apartments for years, so I figured she might know what was best. She wasn’t home, so I did what every other self-respecting Midwesterner would do. I grabbed the heaviest blanket I own, my laptop and my phone, turned the television up really loud so I could hear what the news was saying about the storm and closed the door and hunkered down in my bathroom. (I needed my laptop so I could work on my writing poject—any and all downtime (tornado or no) was devoted to my project. And of course, my phone in case something actually happened.)

Briefly, I’ll admit, I had visions of the movie Night of the Twisters, swirling in my head and imagined wandering the streets after a gigantic storm. I’m not the sort of girl who is prone to drama, but tornadoes always make me think of that movie or the movie Twister.  I’ve lived in the Midwest for my entire life and I have never once seen a tornado on the ground (though I must admit I would like to). So I wasn’t expecting much of anything to happen.

But with all the crazy storms we have been having in the Midwest the past couple of years (i.e. Joplin and other storm disasters), I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips concerning what you should do if you live in an apartment and a tornado hits.

You could always make friends with your neighbors downstairs and hunker down with them when the sirens go off. But if you’re not the social type (or if your neighbors aren’t social and you never see their faces and the only thing you know about them is that they like to have loud sex at inopportune times of the day) this may not work.

Last week I called my apartment complex and asked them for some tips or for information about our complex policy when it comes to big storms. They said they do not have a storm shelter and suggested going to the local fire/police station or “Just get as low as you can.” Sage advice…Obviously they didn’t prove to be much help.

I find it a bit strange that an apartment complex in the Midwest doesn’t have a storm shelter or any actual storm plan for their residents. I love where I live. They take great care of the residents and the apartments but not having a shelter or planned solution is a huge liability and is really thoughtless in my opinion. But I now know that if I ever live in an apartment again, to pick one that has a storm shelter or an actual plan for the residents in the event of an emergency.

As a lifelong resident of the Midwest, I’m not really afraid of the idea of a tornado. They are an everyday part of your life if you live here. It’s kind of like the people on the coasts who are accustomed to hurricanes—typically, it’s not  such a big deal. But when I find myself in an environment that does not provide a logical and safe way to protect myself from such a massive storm, I find myself feeling a bit uneasy and I find my apartment complex’s lack of concern and bravado when it comes to dealing with tornadoes and other large storms to be disturbing. I guess next time, I will choose not to live on the top floor.

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